WEEKLY MAGAZINE “REPORETR? Belgrade, 1 June 2004
RATKO ADAMOVIC ?A PASSANGER THROUGH TIME
CONSPIRACY BY THE POWERFUL STILL EXISTS
THE CHARACTERS OF THE NOVEL ACADEMY OF NIGHT ARE NOT REAL.
HISTORY IS A HUDDLE OF INTERESTS.
EVERY HEARTFELT EROS IS A PRAYER.
UNFORGETABLE MEETINGS WITH BOHUMIL HRABAL, CZESLAW MILOSZ AND ALAN GINSBERG.
R. Your thirteenth book is probably the best. The Academy of Night is in the category of books treating the theory of conspiracy, a highly profitable theme in the last in this century.
I am not sure what is there in the Academy of Night that has provoked you to ask a question about the theory of conspiracy. There were, for example, powerful emperors and kings throughout Europe, just like now. There was a strong connection with the church. People were offered that horrible fraud, that kings and emperors were appointed by God, that the Pope is God’s delegate. And, if they were from God, you could not refuse to obey them. So, they had endless power. Or, for example, behind all that was money and I talk about it in the Academy of Night. Interest. I also talk about Rothschild’s first big job. He sent money, in secret, to Napoleon to arm his soldiers against the English, against Wellington. On the very same day, Rothschild sent one of his men to travel through France to England with money for Wellington , to arm his soldiers against Napoleon. Isn’t that an arm, a by-channel of the theory of conspiracy? Or maybe it should not be named so. Because, as the powerful, the most powerful individuals among the human race take part in it - all those who dare name it would be proclaimed nationalists, naïve, dull, romantic, mythomaniacs etc.
R. The members of the Academy of Night were outstanding creators, philosophers, scientists from the sixteenth century and their work was even then very much ahead of their time.
You see, it was not a secret that Sir Walter Raleigh was fifty years ahead of his time. He traveled to America. He was a conqueror. He was also one of the Court’s favourites. He was charming, very good looking men. An excellent nobleman but with different attitudes when compared with the majority people of his time. He was Queen Elizabeth’s favoutite. He brought tobacco and potatoes to Europe. He was an explorer. He was a mathematician. He was a poet. But when he had fallen in love got married despite the Queen’s will, he was thrown into the Tower, to a jail, where he started writing the History of the World. Then, there is also Tomas Harriot, on of the most famous astronomers and mathematicians of the time in Europe, Decartes disciple. There is also the magnificent, mystical, wonderful Christopher Marlowe, a playwright, Shakespeare’s predecessor. He was the first to introduce into literature the idea of Faustus. All of them, each in his own way, were victimized. Christopher Marlowe’s murder was bloody and perfidious. Sir Walter Raleigh also ended very tragically. James I, Elizabeth’s brother decapitated him. For twenty two years his wife was carrying his embalmed head in her basket. There is also, naturally, Francis Bacon, the great Templar, who however was not a member of the Academy but was a close friend of Raleigh’s and who had a good insight in whatever the Templars had brought from Jerusalem. Nevertheless, in favour of that speaks a little chapel, a church in Scotland, I write about it in my novel, which is a true copy of the temple in Jerusalem. Hundred years before Columbus discovered America, corn could have been seen as ornament in this church. It is well known that the Templars, running away from kings, popes, were simply interested in everything that was BEHIND, therefore they traveled a lot. They were well informed and wise, for them it was not a secret that people from the antic time, contemporaries of Plato and Aristotle knew that the Earth was round. That it goes around the Sun. Then the Church said that it was not so, than as we, the Church, say. Everything is different. We are the center of the Universe. And so on. One could loose his head if opposing. For a thousand of years people were burnt at stakes. Isn’t that conspiracy? Just like being sent to concentration camps. Or to gulags. As you can see, the story is still the same, only costumes are different.
R. Why is it so difficult for the main character of your novel to rid himself of the Balkan heritage?
Oh yes, that was a big problem concerning my approach towards this novel. Actually, I decided to write this novel and that was it. There was no way back. I had two big problems. How Stefan, from the beginning of the 21st century, if at all he would, would talk with people from the end of the sixteenth/beginning of the seventeenth century. When I came to a solution to this problem, I was relieved. I started with full speed, as it has proved that a writer has the power to cross certain limitations, to witness. To be present. They are so wise, Stefan heard so much from them about their voyages and explorations. This is an experience on the back of all our problems, of the layer of the negative, difficult, of the Balkan people, of our slave gene which is destroying our today’s world. We have forgotten that we were slaves under the Turks, but really for five centuries my and your ancestors were Turkish slaves. And, after my character, Stefan, drags that greasy, heavy, slavish, bloody, odd, tormented, wonderful tail. But although it is so difficult, you are still aware of the riches of our Balkan heritage. Tradition, myths, epics, emotions. A strong wish to survive and overcome. All that had to be reconciled in order to appear before those strange people from the sixteenth century. Wise. Great. He had to listen and to discuss.
R. Outstanding lyrical passages are noticeable in your novel Immortal Kaleb too.
In particular if it relates to erotic lyrical passages in my books. If you, as a writer, touch on the man-woman relationship, and are not capable of entering into the lyrical world, warm and gentle, than you do not know what you are writing about. One can approach it roughly, like in the contemporary American novel, with a curse, making of Eros a class of gymnastics. Speaking about love, we are speaking about a prayer, talking about Eros we are talking about a prayer. A heartfelt Eros is a prayer. The lyrical is woven from deep human emotions. That is the yarn reflecting the real picture. In Kaleb and in Kantarion and in Academy of Night the lyrical is requesting its place. And it says: Eh, now, it is my turn. Because this is were a man and a woman will meet.
R. In the Gardens of the Spirit you are expressing a great desire for cognition. This collection of essays is, as you say, a call for the people of the spirit.
I am glad that you mentioned my book of essays. As, I can humbly say, I am one of the rear writing about foreign books. This is a call among the same people throughout centuries. There is a certain type of people who are sitting in those huge forests, academies of night, in silent walks, in deep self denial, who attempt to search for the meaning, the truth, for the depths of the human spirit. Regardless of what their names were, whether Leonardo da Vinci or Bela Hamvas of Paul Vilirio. My book of essays is a book of research. There is also Marguerite Yourcenar. When, one day, researches start analyzing my work, they will say that this book is a testimony of the writer's poetics.
R. You often say that our literature is not translated, we remain for the rest of the world just a grey, amorphous matter from the Balkans. But it is not so in your case?
When that important moment occurs, when you are starting your new novel and you are aware that there are about twenty publishers throughout the world awaiting it, you have a different approach towards your writing, you are more relaxed, your hand is freely entering into the plot of the novel, in the wondrous structure of that polyphony, than when you know that your novel will be read only in five, six streets in Belgrade. It is very difficult to “penetrate?into another culture. Writers who write in the Slavic languages are handicapped. They are waiting for one of the foreign publishers to “pull? If you are published in England, Galimar will follow them the next day. They are waiting who will be the first to be “hooked? Or who will make a mistake. Then the Germans will follow, the Scandinavian countries, then other smaller countries. And then a writer overnight becomes a famous name in the world, sometimes unearned. For a Slavic writer in the Western countries, enormous advertising is required. You must be unusually skilled, or a famous prisoner, or a well known fugitive, and such luck is not common. And the great decedents. Where are they today in Canada and America? Today, they are not even mentioned, with the exception of Czeslaw Milosz.
R. Who, of all the famous writers you met has made the strongest impression on you?
It would be a long list. Perhaps one of the most pleasant and unforgettable meetings was the one with Bohumil Hrabal. First of all, I truly admired his work. Whereas Kundera (overestimated work, entertaining though) moved away from Prague, Hrabal was different. He was staying in his little street while Czechoslovakia was ruled by kings, emperors, fascists, communists. He drank beer with his friends. Sometimes he would go out, just like that in his slippers. And he was writing books. When I was to meet him, I was told he was ill-tempered, he rarely makes friendships. But the meeting was unforgettable. And out of the Nobel Prize winners, it was Czeslaw Milosz. I met him at Berkley before he was awarded the Nobel Prize. He is a splendid, wonderful person. He invited me to lunch. Two, three months later he won that prestigious Prize. When he visited Belgrade, he came only to Francuska 7. Then, there is Brodski and Shoinka ?the African Nobel Prize winner. I like Updike and his Search for My Face. In Cambridge I met Doris Lessing. She is a sweet, wise woman. That was a wonderful meeting. It is obvious that, the greater writer one is, he or she is more spontaneous, relaxed and warm. Of course, there are always ill-tempered people everywhere. Brilliant minds are not necessarily always good characters. No way. With Alan Ginsberg we had an evening of sincere confessions. This old hippy’s confessions are unforgettable.
R. Your novella Black Peter was dramatized, it was plaid and you were both a writer and an actor in the play. Are you still, as a writer, playing a role of an actor?
I must admit that that was a very pleasant experience. Boda Marko Vic started the plays. A writer is always a little bit of an actor, even when he is not aware of that. A writer has to enter the characters he is writing about. He also plays them, somewhere. Some of the great writers, historically, felt that they had to play a character first and then they could write about it. As much as the language is cherished, so much of an actor is in me.
R. Women in your novels are most often positive characters.
I would like women to be even more energetic, more liberated, more self-conscious. To be able to fully use what the nature has given them - to be mothers and the same time intellectuals, scientists. Maria Curi gave birth to three children and was awarded two Nobel Prizes. If I were a woman, Maria would be my “polestar?
R. Have all your dreams concerning your literary career come true?
No. No way. I often say that my thirteen novels are only an entrance hall. As you know, the best work of a prose writer is produced at his age of between fifty and seventy. Then your thoughts are collected in a different way, perhaps close approach of death? But only the body dies. There is no death, believe me.
R. All right. I’ll see you in the form of a dandelion.
Yes. It is possible. I hope that I still have ahead of me some ten, twelve years of hard work. It seems to me that now I have the power for great achievements.
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